Seraphin leather jackets Paris crocodile

  
I love visiting factories. Always have done. 

The Best of British book made use of a lot of factory visits I did in the first five years of the blog – to Corgi, Dent’s, Sunspel etc. And The Finest Menswear in the World was a great excuse to do a bunch more. 

You can’t hide in a factory. There is no sales, no PR – or if there is, they can’t hide behind empty terminology. You can see the product and how it’s being made, rather than having it described to you. 

My favourite factories are small – not bespoke workshops, but little ateliers of a couple of dozen people. It’s often the size you get with ready-to-wear clothing that requires a high level of craft. 
  

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Seraphin
is a lovely example of this. 

The French maker has four workshops on either side of the Quai de Valmy, close to the centre of Paris. The area has been the home of leather tanneries and manufacturers since Napoleon’s time, and the narrow, three-floored buildings are perfectly suited to the different steps of the manufacture. 

Seraphin is one of the best makers of leather coats and jackets in the world, certainly in France, and you can see the fine attention to detail at every stage. 
  

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The craft knife used to cut the thin gloving leathers Seraphin specialises in, for example, is different from the thick knives used in most leather work (see two images above). 

“You need that kind of precision to match these thin leathers,” says founder Henri-George Zaks as he shows me round. “Particularly if the jackets are unlined.”

Each jacket is cut individually, which is necessary when you’re using natural, untreated leathers as Seraphin does.

“We love the natural variation in the colour, the character this gives to each one,” says Henri. “But that means you have to very carefully select and cut each panel, so the whole jacket works together.”

He shows me a treated leather that they are also using for a client (most of Seraphin’s production is still for third parties) and its flat, lifeless colour. It’s not what he likes, but some fashion brands prefer its consistency and control.
  

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This building has three such cutters, two pattern makers, two linings makers and about 12 seamstresses putting it all together.

Down below us we can see the silk linings being cut (pictured above). Seraphin uses silk lining 90% of the time (the same silk as Cifonelli has in its tailoring). 

“I just love the feeling of silk inside a jacket – it’s the best partner for the thin leathers or suedes on the outside,” says Henri. Personally I’ve always liked silk linings. They’re not quite as hard-wearing as synthetics, but I’d rather have silk and replace it every 10 years. 
  

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Next door to us are the pattern makers, creating blue and orange cardboard patterns – an individual one for every design and size. And downstairs are the seamstresses.

Particularly impressive here is the work with fur and down. Two ladies were busy stuffing jackets with goose down by hand when we were there (pictured below).
  

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My favourite place, however, was inevitably the leather room. It was the same with Zilli in Lyon, who we visited for The Finest Menswear in the World

Racks and racks of beautiful skins, subtly varied in their colours and textures, from crocodile to calf, yak to lamb. Henri shows me one package that just came in from Africa – when they opened it up, they found a machete still inside (below). 
  

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Of course, as soon as you see all these leathers, as well as the racks of archive jackets, you start to fantasise about making up something for yourself. (Factories are great, but even better is a factory and shop in one. It’s the perfect retail experience…)

This is something – bespoke jackets – that Henri wants to offer more in the future.

“The product should always feel special, not just because of the quality, but because of the rarity or the personal nature of it. Keep production small, don’t market too heavily. Keep it as something that those in the know can discover.” 
  

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I’m nodding, happily, as he continues. “We might have a little shop or two of our own at some point. But it will be very chic and discreet.

“I hate it when things are pushed too hard. Or when brands start telling where they think I should eat or go on holiday. Why do they think I want that information from them?”

Bespoke is not something that is widely available yet, unfortunately. For the moment, there are the following stockists:

  • Paris (Colette, Sirocco, Theo Fil)
  • London (Boudi Fashion and Connolly, from September)
  • New York (Barney’s, Bergdorf Goodman).
  • Dallas (Forty Five Ten)
  • LA (Just One Eye)
  • Japan (Isetan, United Arrows, Restir, Lidea, Estnation)
  • Russia (Tsum, Raschini, Babochka, VIP)

The Hanger Project also has a few pieces online and some more coming in Autumn/Winter.
  

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Néstor Valiño Puigcerver

Lovely article. How do they compare to Zilli?

I would like to see more designs from them, their website would need an update I think.

Aside this, I’ve noticed that tailors use different kind of canvases for the jackets and trousers waistbands (wool, linen, horsehair, synthetics…). Do you know which one is the best quality and if it is to be recommended on all kind of jackets?

Thanks in advance,

Néstor

Anonymous

Wonderful article Simon, just wanted to follow up this query with how you would rate Seraphin with the other French leather behemoth, Chapal?

Anonymous

Apologies Simon, I wasn’t being clear. When I referred to Chapal as a behemoth, it was more in regards to their history, but point duly taken.

Thank you again for an illuminating article.

Pierre Lenis

Simon,
Sadly Bergdorf has not carried Seraphin for a couple of seasons. Hopefully that will change. They were one of my favorite leather jackets to sell to clients.

Adam Jones

“some fashion brands prefer its consistency and control.” that line makes me feel a little annoyed. Is it actually the customer demanding that that or the brand no wanting to spend time educating their staff to educate customers.?

John

Hi Simon,
I understand the point of Adam Jones’ question and your reply in this specific context. But I wonder whether there isn’t a much bigger challenge related to the notion of consistency that looms large over all the craftsmen whose products are of great interest to PS readers, even when they can’t always afford them. And in that respect, consistency could be equated with “Integrity”. For sure you have already heard such an answer to why someone has stopped buying items at a particular shop: “lack of consistency”. And it’s usually enough to move to a different even unkown shop. So how do these craftsmen manage to maintain the integrity of their products? Frankly, this is a real challenge, perhaps worth exploring as such for the sake of PS readers’ interest.
Now to my own question: you have mentionned silk as fabric used for lining by Seraphin and Cifonelli. Is there a practical rational for that? For sure it’s luxurious, but is it better, say, for woll jackets?
John

Brax O'Shea

I think that they do most of the leather jackets for Hermes, no?

Arndt

Hi Simon, On the topic of leather jackets what do you think of Boda Skins? I know they are certainly not in the same league as Seraphin but I would be interesting to have your opinion on this. Thank you in advance. Arndt

S

Simon,

Unrelated question if I may: Do you know who makes the shoes for Bodiley’s? Is the make on par with Crockett’s?

Thanks,
S

Craig

Hi Im coming to Paris!! Form auckland New Zealand, Im after a Leather Jacket know what i like,
But hard to find and think one made to what i like is best!!
A round what cost
B how long would it take
C I have a photo of a friends one i like that could be used and worked with ?

J.T.

Dear Simon,

Thanks for this article and the one about your Davide Taub leather blouson jacket.
Can you recommend any bespoke leather jacket/coat makers, say, in Italy?
Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
J.T.

J.T.

No worries.
I appreciate your efforts to enlighten the rest of us.
If, in the future, you do find any in Italy, know that we will are ready to receive your reporting on them.
Thanks again.

Sincerely,
J.T.

O

These look superb. For a versatile leather blouson that will pair well from tailored jeans and tshirt to a shirt and flannels, as well as aging extremely well, how would you compare Seraphin, Chapal, and Cromford (mtm/bespoke)? Anyone else you would consider?